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Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. 38:1 (2010)

Dr. David Silberklang

Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 38(1) is dedicated to the memory of Prof. David Bankier, member of the editorial board and a leading scholar of Holocaust history, and to the memory of Avraham Sutzkever, the most important Yiddish poet of our generation. The volume includes an article on Bankier and his contribution to Holocaust research by Dan Michman and an article onSutzkever, the man and his poetry, byAvraham Novershtern. It also includes an article by Lea Prais, presenting missing parts from Rabbi Shimon Huberband's diary of the Warsaw ghetto; an article by Ayala Nedivi on the heretofore unknown attempt to rescue tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews a few days before the Nazi invasion of Hungary in March 1944; and three articles discussing postwar questions on the way in which we remember the Holocaust: Wulff Bickenbach's article on Switzerland's official policy on clearing the name of border police captain Paul Grüninger, who saved Jews and was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations; the article by Kierra Crago-Schneider on antisemitism among Germans in the American-occupied zone after the war; and Doron Bar's article on the rivalry between Yad Vashem and the Chamber of the Holocaust on Mount Zion in the 1950s. The edition also contains three book review aricles:Antony Polonsky on Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive by Samuel D. Kassow; Kiril Feferman on Opfer des Hasses: Der Holocaust in der UdSSR 1941–1945 by Ilya Altman; Arkadi Zeltser on The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories, edited by Joshua Rubinstein and Ilya Altman.

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The article reveals for the first time writings from a chronicle and an unknown chapter from an essay composed by Rabbi Shimon Huberband, one of the prominent activists of the underground "Oneg Shabbat" Archive in the Warsaw Ghetto. These diary excerpts were written in May and June of 1942, the period of dread and terror in the ghetto.

The riveting passages from Huberband's diary and the essay “The Seizure of the Jews in Warsaw in May 1942” presage what was to happen in the Warsaw ghetto later that summer, when hundreds of thousands of its residents were deported to be slaughtered at Treblinka, and hence their importance. In his writings Huberband presents the climate of terror in the ghetto, the acts of abuse and murder perpetrated there in public, the Germans’ methods of action, and the active participation of the Jewish police in the seizure and deportation activity. He also shows the decline of morality exactly as it was.


The article describes a surprising and unknown attempt to rescue Carpathian Jewry on the initiative of Aladár Szegedy-Maszák, Director General of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, and with the knowledge of the Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Kállay. The attempt was cut short by the German occupation, as shown in the writings of the Director of the Palestine Office in Budapest, Moshe Krausz.

The rescue attempt began eight or nine days before the German occupation of Hungary.The cover story was that the Carpathian Jews were to be brought to Budapest in preparation for their emigration to Palestine. No confirmation of this affair has been found among those involved, and only indirect, implicit, confirmation has been found in documents. On March 16, 1944, three days before the German occupation, 600 approved certificates were received from Istanbul, and notice was received of a ship ready to take on the immigrants in Constanţa. Until that time there had never been such a large number of immigration certificates at one time in Hungary, and it appeared suddenly in a period when there was an arrangement for the immigration of nine families a week. The German occupation of Hungary cut short the rescue operation. Krausz's description confirms that many Jewish leaders in Budapest knew of the anticipated German invasion several days before it happened, and of the possibility of the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, as a result of the invasion. 


Captain Paul Grüninger, chief of the cantonal police St. Gallen, rescued a large number of mainly Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution in the years 1938-1939, by allowing them entry into Switzerland and assisting them. He did this largely with the tacit knowledge and toleration of his superior, Councillor Valentin Keel. Spurred by his moral ethical view, Grüninger exploited the discretionary latitude allowd him by the ambiguous relevant law regarding refugees in Switzerland and the context of differing areas of competence at the federal and cantonal level. In carrying out his everyday acts of assistance for refugees, it appeared that he had violated existing laws and instructions on dealing with refugees. For that reason, the Federal Council and cantonal government initiated investigations against him. Even before the end of these investigations, Grüninger was dismissed without notice by the St. Gallen cantonal government in 1939 and stripped of his pension rights. On the one hand, the cantonal government wished to avoid any possible public discussion or questioning of improper behavior by one of its ministers, and thus the entire cantonal government, or perhaps even a discussion about the whole complex of federal Swiss refugee policy. On the other, it did not wish to accept any transgressions by its highest police officer against existing St. Gallen principles for public officials. At the end of 1940, the District Court St. Gallen confirmed Grüninger’s dismissal and sentenced him for “dereliction of duty“ to a fine of 300 Swiss francs. 

All attempts between 1968 and 1993 to achieve his rehabilitation failed due to the strong resistance of the cantonal government. Only in 1995 did the District Court St. Gallen reopen proceedings, which led to Grüninger posthumous acquittal and rehabilitation.

This article offers a detailed account and analysis of Grüninger’s conviction and rehabilitation. It becomes evident that both the criminal trial in 1940 and the successful  reopening of the proceedings in 1995 were from the start subject to political interests, and were correspondingly manipulated. It appears that until the present, the political class in the canton has not made its peace with Paul Grüninger.


In 1949 the Regional Association of the Bavarian Retail Trade and the Federation of Wholesale Trade joined together and wrote a series of letters to officials throughout Bavaria complaining about the “unfair” competition they faced on the Möhlstrasse, Munich’s main center of exchange.  They argued that customers were lured away from their stores by the wares and prices of items sold in shops owned by Displaced Persons, mainly Jews.  According to the German store owners, these Jews acquired cheaper and higher quality goods through illegal channels, allowing them to sell at reduced prices for cash instead of ration tickets. At first glance the letter appears harmless, however, a more thorough examination of the text combined with U.S. army reports on antisemitism and German newspaper articles from the time reveals that the letter writers chose to use couched antisemitic language about Jewish criminality, a common claim in Germany, in an effort to rid themselves of their main competitors. 


The article discusses burial of martyrs' ashes and other remains of Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust at the chamber of the Holocaust on Mount Zion and at Yad Vashem. A cargo of ashes, which arrived from Austria in 1949, served as the basis for creation of the chamber of the Holocaust. The representatives of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Chief Rabbinate then insisted that all the ashes arriving in Israel would be buried henceforth on Mount Zion. With the establishment of Yad Vashem as the national Remembrance Authority and consolidation of the ideas of commemoration there, a conflict developed between the Ministry for Religious Affairs and the Chief Rabbis on one hand and Yad Vashem on the other regarding the interment of the ashes. The representatives of the official state institution wished to bury a cargo of ashes at the center of Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembrance) in a memorial shrine, but this was firmly opposed by the religious establishment. The article notes the differences between these two sites: Yad Vashem was developed as a secular national site emphasizing state commemoration of the Holocaust that characterized this period; conversely, for the chamber of the Holocaust, which drew its force from its proximity to the Old City and King David's tomb, the emphasis was as a memorial and remembrance site for the traditional and religious public that sought religious forms of remembrance.



Review of Samuel D. Kassow, Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, The Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive


Emanuel Ringelblum was the main architect of the underground Oyneg Shabes archive in the Warsaw ghetto created to record the sufferings of the nearly half a million Jews confined there. This definitive and deeply moving biography is, above all, an account of the creation and functioning of this archive, but it also provides a valuable account of 
Ringelblum’s own short life as well as illuminating the tragic fate of  the Jews imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto.

Review of Il’ja Altmann, Opfer des Hasses: Der Holocaust in der UdSSR 1941-1945



This article reviews Ilya Altman’s book Opfer des Hasses: Der Holocaust in der UdSSR 1941–1945published in 2009, which is the German version of his original Russian book that appeared in 2002. The review article argues that the German edition of this book should have been adapted to a German readership, whose needs and interest are different from those of the Russian audience for which Altman’s Russian book had originally been written. Weighing this book against a host of contemporary scholarship on the Holocaust in the occupied Soviet Union, the review highlights the book’s synthetic and innovative approach, as well as of its panoramic and multidimensional account.

Review of Joshua Rubinstein and Ilya Altman, eds., The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German Occupied Soviet Territories


The anthology of documents in English, The Unknown Black Book, published in 2008 and edited by Joshua Rubinstein and Ilya Altman, is an attempt to update and expand study of the Holocaust in the territories of the USSR on the basis of the documents collected during World War II by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.The anthology includes documents that for various reasons were not included in The Black Book edited by Vasily Grosmann and Ilya Ehrenburg.The articles by Altman, Yitzhak Arad and Rubinstein published in the introduction to this anthology are devoted to the Soviet Jewish policy and the reaction of the Soviet Union’s Jewish intelligentsia to these new challenges, to the uniqueness of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, to the preparation of The Black Book for publication, and to the trials conducted in the Allied countries against the Nazi criminals. In this anthology the English reader has access to documents that were first published in Russian in 1993.